Below is a short project I recently completed for a writing class. I am excited to share it with you, because I hope above all else that it makes you reflect on how the Lord has been gracious to you too. 🙂 This is not my story. This is a story of God’s grace.
As my legs flailed violently beneath me, I mustered all of the strength left in my small nine-year-old body to keep myself from sinking. The current tugged mercilessly at my body, slowly dragging me under the water. Little did I realize when I jumped from a rock into the river that I had leapt right into a swirling current that lurked unnoticed below the surface. My energy waned rapidly as I gasped for air and tried to tread water. If it had not been for a lady on the shore who heard my cries for help and swam over to rescue me, I may have drowned. The Lord’s mercy left me in awe that harrowing summer day and still does today. However, many years would pass before I grasped the gravity of these terrifying moments…moments that had lasting effects on my life. This incident was only the beginning of a remarkable journey.
Around age ten, I suddenly developed speech difficulties. Basic verbal tasks became daunting obstacles to overcome. A timid spirit soon replaced my previously outgoing nature. I felt utterly ashamed and embarrassed for the way that I spoke. In the meantime, my family and I sought help from pediatricians and speech therapists. For the first few years, I could not accept my stuttering. I saw it only as a debilitating affliction that kept me trapped inside myself. Every day, my heart overflowed with words and ideas that I could not express to anyone. I wrestled with acceptance for years, until one day, the Lord began to open my eyes to the beauty of stuttering and to help me see it as a gift. It has shaped how I see the world and how I interact with others. It teaches me to listen more than I speak, to see people as God sees them, to love others well, and to find beauty in brokenness. It teaches me kindness, gentleness, and humility—lessons that I need every single day. Although my stuttering still causes unbearable heartache sometimes, I would not trade it for fluency. Even in the hardest moments, when I feel overwhelmed by the deafening silence of words left unsaid, I do not want to imagine my life without it. That is the beautiful paradox of this journey.
Even after I slowly began to accept my new voice, I was still desperate to find answers. My family and I decided to explore one last option. We had read several new research articles that portrayed stuttering as a neurological condition. Intrigued by this idea, I consulted a neurologist in December 2018. I nervously twiddled my thumbs as I waited in the exam room, hoping that the doctor would understand. Stuttering is a fairly obscure condition, even in the medical community. I earnestly prayed in my heart that God would enable this doctor to discover the problem. Within mere minutes, God answered. The neurologist had determined that my stuttering is completely neurological and immediately ordered an MRI of my brain. He also prescribed medication that he hoped would improve my stuttering. I praised God as I left my appointment that day. Though I did not have a complete picture yet of why I stutter, the pieces were slowly falling into place.
Despite my insightful appointment with the neurologist, the following weeks challenged me more than anything I have ever experienced. My body did not adjust to the medicine well. I battled severe side effects that scared me. The scariest side effect of all was how the medicine wreaked havoc on my mind, literally changing my personality. On several occasions, I woke up in the morning feeling utterly hopeless and depressed for no apparent reason. My whole world had gone dark. I could no longer find that joy and zeal for life that used to fill my heart. Several weeks later, I requested to discontinue the medicine. I cannot find the words to express my relief when I finally started to feel like myself again. Although I never want to rewind time and relive those difficult weeks again, I praise God for the unexpected lesson He taught me through this experience. By the end, I longed to be myself again. Even if the medicine would help my speech, I realized that I did not want to speak fluently if I would have to forfeit the person who God created me to be.
The days following my MRI crept by, as I anxiously awaited my results. At this point, my neurologist was not entirely sure whether the near-drowning incident had damaged my brain or whether something more serious—such as a tumor or a neurodegenerative disease—had been causing me to stutter. Days gradually turned into weeks until a nurse from the neurologist’s office finally called me one morning. She explained that my MRI had indeed revealed a hypoxic-ischemic brain injury. Mimicking the effects of stroke, ischemic brain injuries often cause speech impairments. Though for a short time, my brain had been deprived of oxygen just long enough to significantly damage a small portion of my brain. The Lord had heard my family’s prayers and given us an answer in the most unexpected place, in the most traumatic memory of my life. He had answered our prayers in a way far beyond our imagination. About two months later, I learned that my condition is completely irreversible. I will stutter for the rest of my life. Although this news has been very difficult to accept, I know that my God is sovereign.
The Lord mercifully spared my life that day at Hamilton Field swimming hole in New Hampshire. My finite mind will never fully grasp why the Lord allowed my injury, but I do know that He meant it for good. I am amazed whenever I consider that my stuttering has actually made my life sweeter and more meaningful. I firmly believe that He gave me my stutter to mold me into a new person. I no longer want to be the person I was before my stuttering. Every time I stumble over my words, I will remember His kindness to me in letting me live this wonderful life. As long as I live, I will carry a token of God’s incomparable mercy with me. This thought overwhelms my heart with gratitude.